Observing tragedy takes a toll | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Observing tragedy takes a toll

Gregory Crofton

This has just been a bad month. Death seems to be lurking around a lot of corners.

Wednesday night a small avalanche sucked away the life of two 17-year-old skiers who had ventured into back country near Squaw Valley.

A week before, two fatal car accidents left the family and friends of Daniel Vigil, 52, and Todd Pankey, 37, in a fog of grief. The lives of the uninjured changed forever.

Away from South Shore’s wintry roads, inside warm courtrooms, three heinous crimes were dealt with:

n Charles Newport, 20, admitted that he murdered 19-year-old Melissa Hanson and will likely spend the next 15 years in prison for that crime.

n Donald Ray Lawson, 32, was arrested for putting seven bullets into James McGeehan, a 29-year-old who bartends at Mott Canyon Tavern & Grill. Lawson’s road rage allegedly sparked the incident. McGeehan remains in serious condition at Washoe Medical Center.

n Edwin Carlevato, 47, was convicted of six felonies related to the kidnap and rape of a South Shore woman and the sexual assault of another. He’ll probably be sentenced to more than 25 years to life.

Then there’s Thomas Soria Sr., a man accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering a 9-year-old from South Lake Tahoe.

Jan. 28 around 5 a.m. a guard at Douglas County Jail found him face-up on a bed, his body cold and stiff.

A toxicology report released by the sheriff’s department said he died from an overdose of a prescribed anti-depressant called Amitriptyline.

Apparently he committed suicide by taking a lethal dose days after his son, Thomas Soria Jr., testified against him in court.

These real-life stories are even difficult for me, a crusty 8-month veteran of Tribune’s crime and courts beat, to swallow. It’s not easy to distance yourself from one, let alone four or five tragic stories.

What has helped me through is the strength and faith I’ve seen exhibited by loved ones of Vigil and Pankey. They have stepped up to savor life accomplishments of their family member rather than drowning in personal sorrow.

They even tolerated my random telephone calls asking for information.

Let’s hope South Lake Tahoe gets a breather in the months to come. By reflecting on the tragic events that have occurred we can hopefully improve our lives as well as others.

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